Movies can be expensive, especially if you want to see the latest release on Friday or Saturday night. Add a soft drink and popcorn, and the cost can easily rise to $20 per person. At that price, you won’t see many flicks — blockbuster or art film. True frugalistas, however, know that you can see movies for a lot less, if you’re flexible about when you go.
Here are our top five ways to find free and cheap movies.
- Go on the days and times that theaters offer discounts. Afternoon showings are cheaper than evening ones, but morning movies and the first showing of the day are even cheaper at some cinemas. Many theaters also have a specific weekday when films are cheaper. Prices and dates vary by theater, even within the same chain. Find Cinemark discounts here. Find Regal discounts here. Find AMC deals here.
- Watch free movies shown by organizations, neighborhood associations, libraries, even retail centers. Lots of cities stage free outdoor movies – typically in parks or other open spaces – in the summer (or in the winter in Florida). A number of the movie chains offer free kids’ movies in summer, including Cobb Theatres, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark.
- Buy discounted tickets from Costco, AAA and daily deal sites. Be sure to read the fine print, since some discounted tickets aren’t valid for all types of movies and all times. To find the discounted AAA tickets, which gives you $2 to $3 off, you’ll need to go to your local AAA site.
- Keep an eye on deals from Fandango.com, the online movie ticket seller. Sometimes you can get 2-for-1 movie tickets on Fridays if you pay with a Visa Signature card.
- Look for free movie previews. Lots of distributors pay local publicity firms to arrange sneak peeks at films to generate pre-opening buzz. You can get those free passes from radio and TV stations, newspapers and websites, including many of the local On the Cheap websites. Check sites like GoFoBo for coming attractions in your area. Or Like the 43KIX Facebook page for the inside scoop on movies and ways to score passes to previews.
- Consider a subscription. The high-tech option for serious movie-goers is MoviePass, which uses smartphones (iPhones and Androids) and a special debit card. Subscription cost varies by ZIP Code; in New York City, it’s about $30 a month. After you subscribe, you’re sent a unique debit card in the mail. The card is used to purchase tickets.
- Sign up for the loyalty programs offered by some theater chains. Members often get free size upgrades on popcorn and fountain drinks and pay no fees to purchase movie tickets online. At Cinemark Theaters, you have Senior Day (Monday), Discount Tuesdays, Early Bird tickets, military and student discounts, as well as various family packages. Sign up and get weekly coupons and announcements of special discounts. AMC Theaters offers a variety of viewing options at theaters nationwide, including “value pricing” at various times throughout the week. Regal Entertainment (includes United Artists and Edwards Theatres) also offers a selection of discounted movie tickets and gift cards. Ticket prices vary from one theater chain to the next and even among different theaters in the same chain or corporate-owned sister chains.
- Check the benefits from your union (like the United Federation of Teachers), employer, college and alumni organizations, some of which have programs offering discounted movie tickets.